September 15, 2020
Dear friends and family of the National Music Centre (NMC)/Cher amis et famille du Centre National de Musique,
As many of you are already well aware, the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic continue to create uncertainty for so many that work and volunteer in the creative economy sector, which includes the sectors closest to NMC: the arts, museums, and the music industry. Over the past several months, few have not been impacted by the pandemic. We’ve lost anything that resembles business as usual. This is especially true in the live experience sector, which was the first to be impacted and will likely be one of the last to recover. Our community is like family—supportive, collaborative, inclusive and representing a diverse array of vocations and perspectives. We are artists, promoters, managers, small business owners, and arts administrators, connected locally, regionally, and nationally by our belief in the power of music. Our hearts go out to our music community family and everyone who has been and continues to be negatively impacted by the sudden cancellations, temporary and/or permanent closures, layoffs, and illnesses as a result of COVID-19. It’s been very challenging for all of us who have dedicated our lives to music and the creative sector as a whole.
On March 16, Studio Bell, home of the National Music Centre, closed. Soon after, 77 percent of our staff were temporarily laid off, and we began to re-imagine our future with a much smaller team. Since then, we were fortunate to recall some staff back to work (7 full-time and 18 part-time staff) over the past few months. Recalling these additional staff members allowed the NMC team to reopen Studio Bell to the public on August 15 (operating on weekends only) as part of the gradual and safe re-opening of the economy here in Alberta. Throughout our closure period, we successfully pivoted some of our programming online and we will continue to explore more ways to connect people virtually, as well as onsite at Studio Bell through our programs, exhibitions, and recording studios.
With many restrictions regarding public gatherings still in place and the ever-present threat of a second wave, there is still so much uncertainty and a very long road to recovery ahead for all of us in the sector. With the abrupt loss of earned revenues and the increasingly difficult challenges surrounding fundraising for the entire charitable sector, NMC is figuring out how to do more with much less, at roughly 25 percent of our pre-COVID-19 capacity. As a charitable non-profit, non-governmental organization, we have had to adapt to our new fiscal and operational realities and accept that we will not be able to return to our pre-COVID-19 capacity for the foreseeable future. In fact, many of us in the sector are estimating that it may take two to three years or longer to return to previous levels of operation. Some of the decisions that have been made to ensure the sustainability of NMC through this transition period have been unexpected and devastating. Words truly cannot express how difficult these decisions have been to make. This includes our announcement today that we’ve had to permanently layoff 14 full-time and 16 part-time staff from among those individuals who were temporarily laid off in the spring.
On behalf of the NMC Board of Directors, our Leadership team and myself personally, we do not take this decision lightly. We have worked closely with many of these people for years, making this news especially difficult. These individuals have been integral in building a strong and credible foundation for NMC as a relatively young organization, and many have been with us since opening Studio Bell in 2016. They’ve helped build a new home for music in Canada from Calgary, Alberta and we cannot thank them enough for their passion, dedication, and commitment to music and building community. Today is a truly heartbreaking day for our NMC family.
The difficult decisions made today are painful, but will help ensure a more resilient National Music Centre for future generations to benefit from and enjoy. We are confident that eventually, the pandemic and its devastation on our sector will subside. In the meantime, we will work hard to gradually rebuild our team and continue to offer a reduced amount of re-imagined programs, exhibitions and online content to stay connected. We will also work toward building a more inclusive and resilient future for music and the people and communities that we serve and inspire. One day, alongside our staff, volunteers, supporters, visitors, friends and family in the arts and the broader creative sectors in which we thrive, we will rise up again!
Until then, keep music in your hearts and continue to support the artists, champions, workers and volunteers that help bring it to life. Music has the unique power and ability to bring people together to heal, like we have seen it do so often over the course of the past few months, and we must remember to cherish and continue to nurture it.
These remain difficult and challenging times. Look for opportunities and inspiration where you can find them, be kind, be open to learning new things, and to listening to and respecting others. Most of all, be safe, stay positive and keep moving.
Yours Truly—Sincères Salutations,
President & CEO
Président Directeur Général
National Music Centre
Centre National de Musique